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Why Did Pope John Paul II Kiss the Koran?

Although a number of years have passed, many still wonder, why did Pope John Paul II kiss a Koran presented to him? The debate rages on.

FATHER JOE:

Is it not a book that speaks directly against the Catholic faith? Does it not reduce the Son of God to a mere prophet? Did not the popes of the past demand its burning? The answer to all these questions is YES, and yet what the Holy Father did was more complicated than what the anti-Catholic and/or sedevacantist spin-doctors might say about it.

One critic argues that it was a blasphemous act, showing his “hatred” of God and his apostate defection from the true faith. It was none of these things. The Pope is on the record about the differences between Catholics and the followers of Islam. Let us look at the situation. The Pope longed to go to Iraq in order to walk in the footsteps of Abraham, claimed as a “father in faith” by Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Pope John Paul II saw firsthand the depth of man’s inhumanity to his brothers and sisters. Our history as a world is written in blood. As illustrated in his repeated “mea culpa,” he strives for a new understanding between peoples where dialogue, tolerance, and cooperation will replace anathemas, persecution, and rivalry. Abraham is an integral figure of unity in turning things around politically. Looking at the incident in question, the Holy Father received a delegation that included the Shiite Imam of Khadum Mosque, the Sunni President of the council that operates the Iraqi Islamic Bank, and a member of the Iraqi Ministry of Religion. The invitation of a papal visit was renewed. They even went so far as to say that it would be “a grace from heaven.” While Iraq has been guilty of real violations of human rights, this Islamic state was the most tolerant of Christians than any of its Islamic neighbors. Many Catholics held positions in government, commerce, education, etc. The Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon (Iraq), His Beatitude Raphael I Bidawid, was a major spokesman for the delegation. He applauded the Pope’s actions and words as a true sign of concern from the Successor of St. Peter. (Christians represented 5% of the 20 million people in Iraq. Catholics of the large Chaldean rite [implementing the Aramaic language] and of the smaller Latin rite represented 80% of all Christians there.) It was said that a papal visit would confirm the faith of Christian believers while showing forth a genuine love for all in this mostly Muslim nation.

The Koran was a gift to him from the delegation. Islamic peoples are not casual in the giving of gifts. It represents the giver. They knew perfectly well that the Pope was a Catholic Christian, but they gave to him that which was regarded as most important in their life, their own holy book. Thus, at the end of the audience, the Pope showed his deep appreciation to this intimate self-donation, by bowing and kissing the Koran as a sign of respect. Such a gesture ran totally against the grain of crusades and condemnations. It did not mean that the Pope accepted all that was in the book, only that his love for the Muslim people, and the Iraqis in particular, was genuine. He makes the first move, not in the capitulation of our faith, but in the recognition that the followers of Jesus and those who cherish Mohammed should not be engaged in name-calling, or worse, killing each other. The Pope appreciated the suffering of the Iraqi people, particularly the women and children. It showed he did not look down upon them but had a genuine respect for them within the brotherhood of man.

DISCUSSION

COLETTE: I am thinking he does not know what the Koran says about Catholics. Was he pressured into it? Did he wrongly think this is was consistent with ecumenical dialogue or what? I cannot imagine any good reasons. There are none. Let’s face it— it was a crazy thing for a true Roman Catholic Pontiff to do. Would the leader of Islam do this with the Bible?

FATHER JOE: It seems to me that the Holy Father opted for the moral high ground. We cannot worry that such respect would not be reciprocal. His teachings clearly professed his faith in Jesus Christ. This gesture to the Koran is not dissimilar from his kissing the soil of nations he visited. It is a sign of human respect, but not a profession of faith or an imprimatur upon the Koran. The book was a visible symbol of a people and the Pope showed them welcome. It might also be seen as an invocation for peace between the Christians and Moslems.

RAY: I suspect that many of you do not know much about Islam. The Pope understood Islam and recognized the many messages we hold in common. People, who feel they must hate something, in order to love something else, are the reason why there are world wars and much suffering in the world.

FATHER JOE: True Christians hate sin, not sinners. One might show human respect to something like the Koran, particularly given its antiquity and meaning to so many; however, this is all a Christian and Jew can do. It is not our book. We neither acknowledge it as inspired nor as inerrant. We do not claim it as God’s Word. Indeed, it conflicts in many places with what God has genuinely revealed to us as his truth.

MANNY: It just goes to show that John Paul II saw the light before he died. I love this picture even though most so-called Christians are fearful of his simple act of kissing the Koran. He was a good man who had all the qualities of one who will go to heaven, even if he was not necessarily following God’s religion of choice. People in general need ever more to practice what they preach. We need inter-faith knowledge, understanding, and acceptance of other faiths. The religious hatred toward the Koran is very disturbing. This just goes to show that FEAR is the root of all evil. It is a shame that people from supposedly religious Christian backgrounds have commented in a very non-religious way about the Pope’s kissing of the Koran. He kissed the Koran out of respect, realizing that the three religions of the Middle East are not as dissimilar as some believe. He respected Islam. This is something that religious Christians should applaud and not criticize. Anyway, may he rest in peace.

LOLA: I read a third of the Koran and could not go any further when I read that a husband could hit his wife if she misbehaved. It is written that it is okay to kill Jews when they have been given two previous warnings. Jesus never said to kill anyone; he was the prince of peace. There are major contradictions! Well, I suppose I have read more of the Koran than most Moslems and more of the Bible than most Christians. The Pope kissing the Koran was not a wise thing to do. One can accept a copy of the Koran as a gift without compromising your own beliefs. This should especially be so for the Pope, who is the big honcho of the Catholic faith. Maybe the reason we have so many different religious beliefs is because God wants to test the tolerance of our hearts before we are taken home to him? One last comment, if you have half-doubted your faith then you have only half-believed. Just because your parents were of a certain religious faith, it does not mean that you should follow in their footsteps and maybe become a puppet on a string.

FATHER JOE: Christians can follow in the footsteps of parents and the long line of the saints and still not be puppets.  We, as Catholics, seek objective truth, both as revealed by God and in nature itself.

PAUL: I believe that what he did was an extremely spontaneous gesture of respect for Muslims, but not a belief in Islam per se. He was the kind of man who would even debase himself on behalf of others. If it were not a spur of the moment decision – if he had had time to think about it – he would not have done it because of the confusion it engendered. As the successor of Peter it is not his place to do such things. Like most of the fruits of Vatican II (thus far) it has caused more disorder and faithlessness than it has engendered. But because it was a holy act, just as it was a Holy Council, as Catholics, we should believe that it was ultimately good. An interpretation of it which enhances the faith will eventually prevail. The upcoming changes to the language of the Mass, the Motu Propio, etc. are the beginning of this with respect to Vatican II. But even clown masses and celebrants wearing cheese hats probably have a place in the Church of Christ. And popes make mistakes too. They are only human.

RYAN:

Kissing something is not necessarily a gesture of complete acceptance: It can signify love or respect. Think of this in the eyes of a Muslim. They are giving their most holy book, the holiest of their possessions to this man. To them, it is the word of God. What an honor for the Pope (or any person) to receive this most precious gift from them. His kiss was a show of respect and love for the Muslim people, not the Koran’s message itself.

My thoughts drift back to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Indy and his companions come to a very poor village where the people are starving. They are presented with food that would make most of our stomach’s turn. Still, when his companions are shy about eating, Indy urges them to eat anyway: the food offered is the equivalent to a week’s offering in the village.

Biblically, we can look at Luke 19:1-10 (among others) for guidance. Zacchaeus, though rich in possessions, realized the meaninglessness of hoarding his riches upon the arrival of Jesus. He gives half of his belongings to the poor, and pays back the extorted four times over. Upon seeing this, Jesus says: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

Always look at the giver, and not the gift. Jesus looked at the former, and all Christians should follow his example. His blessed Pope John Paul II followed his way, knowing full well that his obedience to Christ would cause him to be smeared. May we all be as brave as him.

MISTER JOE:

Wow, Father Joe!!! What a master stroke of Spin Doctoring Genius you display in your defense of the Pope’s kissing of the abominable book. I think you should go to work for the Democratic Party and tow Clinton’s line, “It depends on what you mean by ‘is.’”

Do you even have the slightest idea what is written in that book? For that matter, did the Pope have the foggiest idea what is written in it? What I have read in it is nothing less than satanic and demonic.

If you are really interested in knowing what the Quran says, then you must learn the Arabic language, and then find an un-sanitized copy of the Quran (in the Arabic language) and read it for yourself. A friend, who was working in Saudi Arabia, brought back to the USA a Quran he had obtained from a mosque, after befriending a mullah.

However, I seriously doubt that you will indulge in such undertaking.

FATHER JOE: I have read the Koran. Make no mistake about it; the book is full of errors and fanciful stories. Have you read it? Interpretation of the Koran is difficult because of inconsistencies. Some argue that earlier texts for mercy or toleration are superseded or made void by the later more harsh statements. Pope Benedict received death threats when he charged the Islamic community with disavowing violence. Unfortunately, the Koran is the source for such sentiments as espoused by the so-called Moslem extremists. Pope John Paul never said he agreed with the book or that it was inspired. He offered no act of worship or submission to a false religion. In the interest of peace, he welcomed his visitors by humbly accepting that which they most cherished. The kiss was not one of adoration but as in the liturgy, a kiss of peace. We can pray that it may have a transformative effect for good.

SIBYL: The true sons (and daughters) of Abraham are those that believe Jesus is The Christ, Savior and LORD, The I AM…that He is the Model, The Ikon of Man, Husband, Friend, Brother. See Matthew 3:9, Luke 3:8, John 8, Acts 3 and 13, Romans 9, Galatians 3.

FATHER JOE: Then what about the Jews?

SIBYL: John Paul II made a grave error in kissing the book Mohammed wrote.

FATHER JOE: Such was a gesture of human respect, not divine worship. His guests knew that. There can be no doubt that the late Pope was a Catholic and not a Moslem. While you can disagree about an act of courtesy, it would be wrong to view this as a grave religious error. Your fundamentalism is showing. I am reminded of a Protestant iconoclast insisting that kissing statues and images is idolatry.

SIBYL: Moreover, the Roman Catholic Church Catechism’s # 841 is extremely dangerous and misleading.

FATHER JOE:

[CCC 841] The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.” (Lumen Gentium 16)

There is nothing outside of God’s providence, even the sins and errors of men. God’s will cannot be circumvented. While this speaks to the plan of salvation, the rest merely takes the Moslems at their word. They believe in one God. Monotheism is a higher and truer form of religion than polytheism. This is a basic appreciation from the philosophy of God. They look upon Abraham as their father, as do the Jews and in a spiritual way, as do Christians. The Pope and the catechism never say that Islam is fully a true religion. Such can be said for Catholic Christianity and for Judaism. All that is good in Judaism is embraced by the Church. Salvation comes from the Jews.

Moslems believe that God the Creator is the one true God who must be adored. They also believe that God is merciful and the final judge of all. Their religion has many errors, but about these essential points, we are in agreement. Notice how short the statement is. There is much about which we disagree. However, you would not even allow this small fragment of concurrence.

SIBYL: Mohammedism is a perverse mixture of the worship of the goddess of Ishtar, Judaism, and Christianity. Mohammedism produces a malevolent, mendacious, misogynistic male, full of hate, lust, lies and death, domination, bondage, war. In fact, Mohammedism produces the anti-christ, the opposite of Christ, who is Love, Truth and Life, who gives freedom, joy, life and peace.

FATHER JOE: There are plenty of antichrists in Christian garb as well. Anyone who sins and who refuses to repent is opposed to Christ.

SIBYL: Mohammedism is a metastasizing political religious system that does not tolerate or abide anything but domination and submission to its dictums and dogmas. You shall know them by their fruit.

FATHER JOE: (I suspect that given style transitions, you are quoting something.) Yes, but we should not be quick to judge. Further, we should not scapegoat an entire people because of the sins of a few. Some would judge of all Catholicism by the sinful acts of sick priests or by the abuses of Catholics in history.

WILLIAM: I can’t understand what’s so controversial about this event; it was a beautiful gesture by a beautiful man. If anyone could be seen as a great Christian, I think it would be the late Pope John Paul II. May he rest in peace.

CHRISTINE: I now know why our churches have emptied. We are no longer strong.

SHUKOUR: I believed there is no such thing in the Koran as a directive to kill Jews.

FATHER JOE:

Actually, there are directives in the Koran for what is apparently murder, both toward the Jew and the Christian. Often castigated as infidels or idolaters, the language is that of intolerance. Reconciliation is only recommended if one’s Judaism or Christianity is renounced for Islam. Radical Islam stresses such passages as below and does not cower from using violence for its ends:

[2.191] And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.

[3.28] Let not the believers take the unbelievers for friends rather than believers; and whoever does this, he shall have nothing of (the guardianship of) Allah, but you should guard yourselves against them, guarding carefully; and Allah makes you cautious of (retribution from) Himself; and to Allah is the eventual coming.

[3.85] And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers.

[5.33-34] The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement, except those who repent before you have them in your power; so know that Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (This literally means, convert or die! When Pope Benedict XVI recently recommended that world Islam denounce such violence, millions of protestors chanted and displayed signs, “Kill the Pope!”)

[8.12] When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you, therefore make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.

[8.60] And prepare against them what force you can and horses tied at the frontier, to frighten thereby the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them, whom you do not know (but) Allah knows them; and whatever thing you will spend in Allah’s way, it will be paid back to you fully and you shall not be dealt with unjustly.

[8.65] O Prophet! urge the believers to war; if there are twenty patient ones of you they shall overcome two hundred, and if there are a hundred of you they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they are a people who do not understand. (This is sometimes translated as, “The unbelievers are stupid; urge the Muslims to fight them.”)

[9.5] So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

[9.28] O you who believe! the idolaters are nothing but unclean, so they shall not approach the Sacred Mosque after this year; and if you fear poverty then Allah will enrich you out of His grace if He please; surely Allah is Knowing Wise.

[9.29] Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.

[9.30] And the Jews say: Uzair is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away! (Literally this is interpreted as “The Jews and the Christians are perverts; fight them.”)

[9.123] O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness; and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil).

[22.19-22] These are two adversaries who dispute about their Lord; then (as to) those who disbelieve, for them are cut out garments of fire, boiling water shall be poured over their heads. With it shall be melted what is in their bellies and (their) skins as well. And for them are whips of iron. Whenever they will desire to go forth from it, from grief, they shall be turned back into it, and taste the chastisement of burning. (Here torture against Jews and Christians is recommended.)

[47.4] So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners, and afterwards either set them free as a favor or let them ransom (themselves) until the war terminates. That (shall be so); and if Allah had pleased He would certainly have exacted what is due from them, but that He may try some of you by means of others; and (as for) those who are slain in the way of Allah, He will by no means allow their deeds to perish. (This is sometimes translated as, “Do not hanker for peace with the infidels; behead them when you catch them.”)

SHUKOUR: Do you know that most of the prophets of Islam were Jews that include Jesus a.s., Moses a.s., etc.

FATHER JOE: No, I did not know that and the reason is simple, it is a lie. Moses and Jesus are embraced and reinterpreted by Islam, but they did not preach or teach the dictates of Islam. Islam was only founded by Muhammad in 622 AD. Although he argued that his was a restoration or purification of Judaism, historical research shows this contention cannot be sustained. Islam represented something new, although with many borrowed elements. Angered when Christian monks uncharitably expelled him as stupid from their community, Muhammad set off to create his own religion. He combined elements of the various tribal religions and their gods with that of the Jews and Christians. The majority of converts to Islam in its first days came from polytheistic tribal religions. A large number of deities were worshipped, including that of the moon and the goddess of the sun. Christians and Jews were initially invited into the movement, but Muhammad’s so-called revelations became increasingly antithetical to their beliefs and practices.

SHUKOUR: In the Koran, a chapter is devoted solely to Jesus a.s.’ mother, Mariam or Mary who happens to be Jewish.

FATHER JOE: Salvation comes from the Jews. Mary was a Jewish maiden. Muslims accept the Catholic teaching of her as a virgin giving birth to Jesus. However, despite the teachings of Christ and that of the apostles, they reject that he is both God and Savior. Jesus is much more than a prophet. He is the Way and the Truth and the Life. Muhammad could never get his head around the Trinity. Indeed, the Koran errs in its description of the Trinity as believed by Christians.

SHUKOUR: No mention of Muhammad s.a.w’s mother. We, Muslims should be angry that Muhamad s.a.w’s mother was not mentioned and considered to be the greatest mother and woman for Muslims to follow instead of Mary.

FATHER JOE: Muhammad was purported raised early on by a nurse. Halima. As a baby, Muhammad seemed to have epileptic seizures. It was feared that he was demon possessed. His mother took him back but then quickly died and he was passed off to his grandfather. Evidently, there is not much one can say about his mother. However, Muhammad had access to the Christian gospels. Luke especially, spoke a great deal about Mary. Such becomes a source text for Muhammad’s reworking.

SHUKOUR: But we Muslims accepted wholeheartedly and loved and revered Jesus a.s.’s mother to be followed especially in the concept of motherhood and the excellent characteristics of a woman accepted by God!

FATHER JOE: Yes and no, for while Muslims love and respect Mary to a certain degree, they would not understand her as the chief of the saints in offering intercession, and the full significance of the Catholic dogmas.

SHUKOUR: The Koran also mentioned that since Christians and Jews are peoples of the book; that we, Muslims, should engage them in the kindest manner and that Muslims should engage them in dialogues in a friendly manner.

FATHER JOE: Yes, there are places in the Koran where such sentiments are expressed. But then they are spoiled by sections espousing forced conversions and violence. Interpretation of the Koran is problematical. Since it is not consistent, some authorities argue that the later harsher stipulations overrule or abrogate the earlier statements for friendship. Unlike the Bible, where we see progressive revelation realized in Christ where the primitive harshness of the Old Testament is replaced with the admonition for love and mercy in the New, the Koran seems to grow more intolerant as Muhammad became increasingly frustrated and unsatisfied. Further, while as a priest I can show human respect to Muslims, Catholics neither believe that Muhammad was a prophet nor that the Koran was inspired or from God. This statement alone would earn a Christian (or Jew) imprisonment and maybe the death sentence in certain Islamic strongholds.

SHUKOUR: My dear friends, Muslims also revered Jesus a.s. and Muslim children were told fascinating stories about Jesus a.s., his birth, his mission etc.

FATHER JOE: Yes, and Christians would judge the refashioned stories as largely fiction.

SHUKOUR: Muslims revered Jesus a.s. second to Muhammad and the only difference with Christian belief is that Muslims believed that Jesus a.s. never dies on the cross but was taken up into heaven by God as God loved Jesus a.s. so much that he (God) did not want Jesus a.s. to suffer the torture.

FATHER JOE: Christians regard this as both as unsubstantiated and as blasphemous. We regard Muhammad as the founder of a new religion, but not as a prophet. Christians understand Jesus as a divine person with a complete human nature. Jesus suffers his passion and death as his great redemptive work to save us from our sins. Further, we believe that Jesus Christ conquered the grave by rising from the dead, ascending to the Father and now sits on his right hand, and that he sent his Holy Spirit to inspire and to protect his Church. Islam rejects the entire kerygma of salvation as understood by Catholics.

SHUKOUR: Muslims believe that Jesus a.s. is still in heaven and are eagerly waiting for him (Jesus a.s.) to return in order to bring peace in the “now troubled world” of ours.

FATHER JOE: Catholics believe that Jesus is in heaven but that as God he cannot be limited to heaven. We believe, as the true Scriptures and the sacred traditions of the Church teach; that he is present in the gathered assembly and Church; he is present in the Word proclaimed; he is present in his priests; and he is present in his sacraments and the Eucharist.

SHUKOUR: And also, Muslims do believe in the Bible brought by Jesus a.s. as words of God. It is believed as a holy book and is one of the cornerstones of the faith of Islam that include the Koran, Torah etc.

FATHER JOE: No, Muslims do not believe in the Bible. They approve of elements only. They place the authority of the Koran over that of the Bible.

SHUKOUR: That which is taught in the Bible, Torah, etc. is also contained in the Koran as a full guidance of a way of life approved by God!

FATHER JOE: There are purloined elements of the Bible in the Koran, as well as from the now defunct tribal religions which Muhammad encountered. However, the Koran rewrites, subtracts and adds to the biblical testimony.

SHUKOUR: My dear friends, I’m just sharing with you a bit about Islam, the Koran and about the Muslims so that we can avoid a misunderstanding.

FATHER JOE: I can well appreciate your effort, but from my perspective, and I say this respectfully, the misunderstanding is yours.

EYNAR: Is it so hard to understand? He was a real Muslim in his heart. To kiss the Koran is more than to accept it. So Christians, are you more clever and faithful than him? I really love him as a Muslim.

FATHER JOE: Really, it is not so hard to understand. There is no such thing as a “Muslim in his heart,” just a recognition by the Pope that the one God of Christians is the one God worshipped by Muslims. The Pope taught and lived the Catholic faith. His witness is part of the public record. As a Muslim you can love the late Pope. But while he also displayed human respect, he professed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He was the visible head of the Church established by Jesus. He believed in the Trinity, and thus that Jesus is divine and human.

CHUCK: I was fascinated with your collected, inspiring discussion and explanation of Christian teachings. My intent is to educate myself on the truths of Islam as my son has recently become fascinated with a young Muslim girl. I am torn by the impulse to protect him from becoming complacent in his religion in an effort to win her affection. On the other hand, he has been raised to love and accept all people. Although their relationship is still in its infancy, can you say something about serious relationships between a Muslim young woman with religious parents and a Christian young man with the same? Mind you that I have received advice from other Christians to “stop the relationship immediately.”

FATHER JOE: The Archdiocese of Washington tried to impose a moratorium on Catholic-Muslim weddings a number of years ago. Given that such marriages have an extremely high failure rate, as much as 90%, such relationships are very problematical. I would advise against such dating. Respecting practicing Muslims and having romantic relationships must be distinguished. The former is admirable, the latter is precarious. It is best not to allow such things to heat up. If the young lady wants to convert to Christianity that would change the dynamics in their favor; however, she might face alienation from her family. Indeed, in some countries a conversion of this sort could bring imprisonment, torture or even death.

JESSICA:

How can the “Vicar of Christ’s” actions be justified? The Quran, Surah 4:157 it states:

YUSUFALI: That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not.

He kissed a book that undermines all of Christianity. Without the Death and Resurrection of JESUS CHRIST there is no Christianity or Catholicism. Or for that matter no “Vicar of Christ.” And this was done by a man who claims to be infallible? And yes I do sound upset, because I was Catholic, I went through RCIA twice. Two times because I wanted to learn as much as I could before I agreed to accept the teachings of Catholicism. Given the history of the church, etc. there was a lot to accept. But John Paul II’s actions were…. I can understand him wanting to make peace with the Iraqi peoples, or stepping into a Mosque, even accepting a Quran. But kissing the Quran? No. And no I do not believe that he is Muslim, or accepted Islam. I believe he is Catholic. But he sinned. He went against GOD. The one question that I ask is WWJD?

FATHER JOE:

It seems that upon this question I must continually return to cover old ground. No Christian contests that the Koran is a non-Christian book which speaks against many of the tenets of our faith. Not only does it deny the redemptive work of Christ but also his divinity. Further, despite an inconsistency in its remarks, there are sections which disparage Christians and admit violence against them for purposes of conversion. It is quite clear from the late Pope’s books, letters and talks that he believed and taught the Christian kerygma. That is why there is silliness to such debates as this. The question that anti-Catholic fundamentalists and sedevacantist traditionalists ignore is this: Given that the Pope is a Christian, why did he kiss the book? It was no action of apostasy. Rather, it was a gesture of respect and benignity to his visitors and world Islam. Any legitimate answer brings us back to the fact that the Pope is both a religious leader and a head of state. Christians must seek to live in peace with the world’s one billion plus Muslims. What would you have had the Pope do, throw the book back into the faces of his guests? Would you have preferred that he spat upon it? While it may not be our custom, gifts are traditionally kissed. Men even kiss men in parts of the Middle East and Orient. Place yourself for a moment into the cultural setting of the Islamic representatives. The Koran signified their greatest treasure. It stood for them and their identity as a people. The Pope’s gesture said to them, that despite our differences and difficult past history, we love you and want to live in peace with you. The tactics of the past meant both adversity and bloodshed. What would Jesus do? While we can argue prudential actions, I think he would seek the same aims as the Holy Father. The Pope is the visible head of the Church and Christ is the invisible head. The Pope is the Vicar of Christ. What would Jesus do? I think that in the Pope we have already seen it. However, modern day Pharisees and scribes are aghast and filled with hypocritical rebuke and disdain. Just as Jesus was rejected by his own for association with tax collectors, sinners and gentiles; the Holy Father was slandered for reaching out to the great historical enemies of Christianity. As an aside, your comment confuses infallibility with impeccability. Within certain constraints, and regarding faith and morals, Popes are infallible but not necessarily sinless. The Popes even have priest confessors.

If you were a convert who has since left Catholicism, then you apparently could not think and believe with the mind of the Church on other matters, too. I will keep you in prayer that you might one day return to the safe harbor of faith… before it is too late. We know how you feel about the Koran, but I would urge you to read the writings of the late Pope and his successor. You might take special benefit from the Bible, particularly the Gospels, and the universal catechism. The latter work was promulgated under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. Since you have spent time reading the Koran, you should at least spend a little time reading the Church’s books. It is funny in a way. You condemn the Pope for kissing the outside of a book while you evidently opened the Koran and read a portion of it. The latter was once an offense given that the Koran was on the Index of Forbidden Books. What would Jesus do? Jesus will never abandon (as you have) the Church that he founded.

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26 Responses

  1. It is hard to believe that so many who are ignorant will not die ignorant; it is obvious when we hear Christians speak about the only Quran.

    FATHER JOE: You are free to have your opinion. Christians feel that they have the truth and it is certainly better backed up by history than Islam.

  2. Your defense of kissing the Koran is despicable. It is a betrayal of Christ. Can you imagine the apostle Paul kissing the statue of Diana when they came against him? Can you imagine the martyrs who died refusing to recognize Caesar as a god being betrayed. There is no excuse for this and there is no excuse for you, except you faith is men and their traditions instead of in the Word of God.

    FATHER JOE: You Army of God people are so offensive. You go out of your way to ignite the fires of violence and hatred. What is wrong with you? Here you attack the wonderful author of EVANGELIUM VITAE, the great watershed encyclical on the sanctity and dignity of human life. And yet you say you are pro-life… hypocrites! You attack the Catholic Church every chance you get. While the Catholic Church calls our homosexual brothers and sisters to a celibate and chaste life, you throw out slurs of hate. I will pray for your conversion because while you call on the name of Jesus, I doubt that you know him.

  3. “However, a gesture of diplomacy should not be wrongly interpreted as having doctrinal significance when we know full well what the Pope believed and taught as the visible head of the Catholic faith. This is where I become upset with critics.”

    Thank you very much for the explanation Father. I understand, and would never presume to question that John Paul II believed anything but the eternal truths of Holy Mother Church.

  4. “The Church must act carefully, not foolishly”
    Amen to that, fr. Joe. A wise man sows love in his/her relation’s hearts, not hatred.

  5. “The Church must act carefully, not foolishly”
    Amen to that, fr. Joe. The salvation of peaple is not the work of children (who can act with impulsiveness, bordering on hatred). A wise man sows love in his/her relation’s hearts, not hatred.

  6. “If such should bring some “glee” to Muslims, is this not better than brandishing the sword?”
    These were not the only alternatives available to the Holy Father when he received the Quran, and I would only very respectfully suggest that you tend to reduce this to such balck and white choices. Not knowing his intentions beyond your reasonable assessment, although the intent you offer is exculpatory, what did his Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, and secular audience make of it? He kissed the Quran, not the Muslims, the symbolic aspect notwithstanding. Unless we are prepared to attribute this act to infallible judgment, which I suspect the Holy Father would have disclaimed, it is a little rash to categorically disallow a mistake. Moreoever, I would never say it to Muslim, but even though one finds lofty language and some altruism in the Quran, it is leavened throughout with the lust-mongering pathos of the devil himself (flesh & blood-lust).

    FATHER JOE: Yes, you are quite right; the Koran is not God’s book of revelation. Pope Benedict XVI was critical of the Koran and its notion of holy war or conversion at the edge of the sword. There are, of course, many doctrinal errors as well, some that are documented facts, like the defective definition of the Christian “Trinity.” Regarding the late Pope, like you, I would allow that the kiss might have been an element of questionable praxis, bound to be misinterpreted. However, a gesture of diplomacy should not be wrongly interpreted as having doctrinal significance when we know full well what the Pope believed and taught as the visible head of the Catholic faith. This is where I become upset with critics. (It has been suggested that since it was a mixed delegation, including Christians, the Holy Father might not have understood the nature of the book. Others suggest that the Pope acted instinctively without thinking the gesture through. Afterwards, nothing more is said about it from the Vatican, hoping perhaps to keep the sleeping dogs at rest.) In any case, critics have made too much of the business. It often complicates matters that the Pope wears two hats, chief shepherd of Christ’s Church and the head leadership for the Vatican State.

  7. Rome (Fides, 1999) – “At the end of the audience the Pope bowed to the Muslim holy book the Koran presented to him by the delegation and he kissed it as a sign of respect.” This was said by Raphael Bidawid, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans who told Fides about his audience with Pope John Paul II on May 14th when he was received with a delegation composed of the Shiite imam of Khadum mosque and the Sunni President of the council of administration of the Iraqi Islamic Bank and also a representative of the Iraqi ministry of religion. That gesture was a sign of the Holy Father’s respect for the billion and 34 million followers of Islam, as well as his eagerness to make a pilgrimage in the footsteps of Abraham, the common father of Christians, Jews and Muslims.

  8. NO FATHER JOE YE TALK AGAINST JESUS CHRIST. SHAME ON YOU!

    FATHER JOE: I do nothing of the kind. I merely defend the Vicar of Christ against those who would undermine his authority or second-guess his decisions.

    AS NO JESUS CHRIST WOULD HAVE NEVER EVER KISSED THE KORAN EVER!

    FATHER JOE: Actually, you do not know what Jesus would have “personally” done. Our Lord was not afraid of challenging the conventions of his time, even as he ate and drank with tax-collectors and sinners. In any case, the Pope’s gesture, regardless as to what book it was, was welcoming to a mixed Christian-Islamic delegation. There was nothing of false worship.

    JUST LIKE HE WAS TEMPTED BY SATAN EVIL IN TELLING JESUS TO JUMP OFF THE MOUNTAIN! THEY WERE IN THERE WAY LOOKING FOR THE POPE TO GIVE IN AND EVEN IN JESTER OR RESPECT TO THEM KISS THEIR EVIL BOOK.

    FATHER JOE: If I recall correctly, this was before the invasion. The Pope and the delegation approached this as an effort at peace. There was no intention to convert the Pope. The evil temptation is what you would have advised, spurning the gift and stamping the visitors as evil.

    JESUS WOULD OF SAID GET THEE BEHIND ME AS YOU DARE NOT TEMPT THE LORD THY GOD. AMEN! AMEN!

    FATHER JOE: The real temptation is to hate and to embrace war. Beware that you properly discern the spirit which moves behind your words.

    YOU NO NEED TO REPLY AS JESUS SAID MANY, MANY, WILL LEAVE THE CHURCH AN HE MEANT IN HOW TO RESPECT IT AND DOES GOD’S WILL!

    FATHER JOE: Attacking the Pope suggests to me that you are already severed from the Church or on your way out. The Pope is Peter and on this ROCK our Lord promised to build his Church.

    JESUS LAYED DOWN HIS LIFE FOR US AND THE POPE TOO!

    FATHER JOE: Yes and the saintly Pope followed Jesus by taking up his crosses. He suffered much for the kingdom, even an assassination attempt.

    SO THE POPE SHOULD HAVE REMAINED IN RESPECT ONLY TO THE ONE TRUE GOD!

    FATHER JOE: The Pope committed no apostasy. Further, the Church teaches that the God of the Jews and the Moslems is the same “one God” worshipped by Christians. However, we know this God as a Trinity and that Jesus is Lord and savior.

    THE ONE TRUE JESUS CHRIST AND IF THAT MENT NOT KISSING THEIR EVIL BOOK ON MURDERING CATHOLICS AND ALL THEN HE SHOULD HAVE LAID DOWN HIS LIFE ON THE LINE BY NOT HAVING ANYTHING TO DO WITH A MUSLIM CULT THAT BEHEADS PRIESTS, NUNS, CATHOLICS AND GOD’S PEOPLE!

    FATHER JOE: Pope John Paul II is in heaven now. The recent attack upon the Church and a priest was indeed unfortunate; however, such is the result of a world obsessed with violence and religious intolerance. The Pope always spoke out about the sanctity of life and the dignity of human persons. To spurn the gift and deride his guests is the attitude that leads to more bloodshed. The Church takes the initiative in the campaign for peace, even if others should still prefer the sword. Crusades and holy wars were fought and people are still at each other’s throats. You make too much of a gesture. We know the writings of Pope John Paul II and they are wholly Catholic. He never said the Koran was inspired or truthful. Pope Benedict XVI has tried to exhibit the same respect and yet when he suggested that Moslems repudiate conversion by the sword as espoused in the Koran, a million people around the world protested, “Death to the Pope!” and “Off with his head!” The Church must act carefully, not foolishly as you suggest.

    NO WAY AROUND IT FATHER JOE! NEVER! AND JESUS WILL SHOW YOU AT THE END!

    FATHER JOE: Neither you nor I have the final word about what Jesus will show us at the consummation. However, I do have every confidence in his chief shepherd, the Pope, something you seem to have lost.

    POPE JOHN PAUL DISGRACED THE FAITH AND PLACED ALMIGHTY GOD’S CHURCH LAST!

    FATHER JOE: Ridiculous! Given that he will soon be canonized a saint of the Church, you are on very shaky ground. You are the one who is distancing yourself from the true Church of Christ. You are the one presumptive in the judgment of the Pope. You are giving yourself the right of judgment that belongs to Christ. That is wrong.

    AND YOU SAY IT WAS OUT OF RESPECT?

    FATHER JOE: Yes, I did.

    OOOOH MY POOR LOST SOUL.

    FATHER JOE: Maybe so, but that is between you and God.

    I’LL PRAY FOR YOU FATHER AS HE WAS BEING TESTED BY THOSE EVIL ONES AS JESUS WAS!

    FATHER JOE: Actually, I am more tested (at least my patience) by ignorance and bigotry from those who think they know better than the Pope and the Church.

    ONLY POPE JOHN PAUL FAILED ALMIGHTY GOD AND HIMSELF AND THE TRUE CATHOLIC PEOPLE (TEARS, TEARS).

    FATHER JOE: Such presumption against a Pope might constitute sin. Be careful.

    NO I’M NOT AS EDUCATED AS YOU FATHER.

    FATHER JOE: Hardened hearts are just as tragic as closed minds.

    IM’ BUT JUST A HUMBLE LITTLE SIMPLE MAN THAT CAN’T EVEN SPELL RIGHT BUT ALMIGHTY GOD CHOOSES EVEN THE HANDICAP AS MOSES WITH HIS STUTTERING AND MANY OTHER SAINTS THAT HAD HANDICAPS!

    FATHER JOE: But God did not select you to question his Magisterium. God called Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis… not you, to lead his holy Church. It is one thing to question pragmatic judgment or acts, but you impugn the Pope’s intentions and faith. That is very wrong for a Catholic… although with this reference to “true” Catholic, I have to wonder if you have defected.

    SO I GUESS ALMIGHTY GOD CAN USE ME TOO!

    FATHER JOE: So can the devil; that is why you must discern spirits and obey the Pope.

    AND I KNOW THROUGH THE GRACE OF ALMIGHTY GOD AND HIS LOVE FOR HIS SON AN HIS PEOPLE THAT HE WAS VERY, VERY, DISAPOINTED IN WHAT POPE JOHN PAUL DID.

    FATHER JOE: That is funny because I also seek to remain in God’s good graces and he showed no such disappointment to me. Your spurious private revelations do not trump the public revelation of the Church or the deposit of faith as interpreted by Christ’s teaching authority: the Pope and those bishops in union with him. I am not disappointed in the late Pope. I am disappointed in people like you. Instead of being grateful for his contribution to the Church, you tear down his teachings and witness. Did you read his encyclicals? Did you listen to his sermons? Evidently you did not. Traditionalists embracing schism and fundamentalist Protestants who hate the Church— these are your bedfellows. Don’t believe me? Search the internet and you will see. You have aligned yourself with the Church’s enemies!

    DO YE NOT KNOW THAT ALMIGHTY GOD ALSO LOVED DAVID AN FORGAVE HIM FOR THAT TERRIBLE SIN OF ADULTRY AN HAVING THE WOMEN’S HUSBAND SET IN THE FRONT OF ALL SOLDIERS AN KILLED TO COVER UP HIS SIN AND HE WAS FORGIVEN? AND POPE JOHN I PRAY ASK ALMIGHTY GOD’S FORGIVENESS BEFOR HE DIED OF THIS TERRIBLE SIN AGAINST ALMIGHTY GOD!

    FATHER JOE: Again, one might question the practical judgment, especial in regards to Popes as the heads of state. However, accusing the Pope of sin in this regard when we know full well his views about faith is not only wrong or misleading, but constitutive of serious matter for sin in your regard. Do “YE” (previously corrected as YOU) understand this? Those who attack the Pope on this point are either anti-Catholics who hate the Church and the papacy or they are breakaway traditionalists intent upon making their schism permanent. In other words, they have become “sede vacantists.” You are breeching yourself from the Magisterium and the saving Church over a fairly insignificant matter of diplomacy.

    JESUS SAID YE CANNOT SERVE GOD AND THE EVIL ONE! AND THEY ARE EVIL!

    FATHER JOE: Well, here you make it clear that you hate the Moslems as evil. That explains everything. There are indeed evil fanatics and of late those who are Moslem have made their presence felt on the world stage. But the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia was purportedly committed by Christians. There is evil enough to go around, even among those who rightly call Jesus “Lord.” Faith in Christ must be accompanied with charity and obedience. The papal action showed affection and brotherhood with men that you castigate as evil, even the Chaldean patriarch. Before the war, 25% of Baghdad was Catholic and Coptic Christian. That community is much diminished today and scattered. Can we really say things are better? The world appears to be a more dangerous place today then fourteen years ago. Who knows how much of this is due to our refusal to follow the Holy Father’s leadership?

    PLEASE I DONT NEED YE TO REPLY UNLESS YE WANT TO WASTE WORDS AS I ALREADY TURN TO ALMIGHTY GOD WITH ASKING THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST ON THIS AND I TRUST GOD THE FATHER SON AN HOLY SPIRIT ALONE!

    FATHER JOE: So you have left the Church, repudiating the Pope and the priests of the Church. You should be a faithful son, go to Confession and stay active in your Church. Instead, you make yourself into “a church of one” where you are the prophet and supreme authority. Such are the makings for a cult, not genuine Christian faith. Do I waste my words? Well, they are mine to waste. While Popes claim infallibility upon matters of faith and morals, I claim no such protection. I have received my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. I have every confidence that God watches over his Church, the Catholic Church.

    MANY WILL COME IN SHEEP CLOTHING AND IN CHRIST JESUS NAME AND DECEIVE MANY! JESUS SAID KNOW THEM BY WHAT THEY SAY AN I’VE HERD ENOUGH THAT I’M NOT READING A REPLY AS JESUS CHRIST ALREADY SET IT TO THE TRUTH AN NOTHING MORE TO BE READ!

    FATHER JOE: Hypocrite! You yourself write a long comment in capital letters (signifying shouting and anger). If God’s Word is enough then you should be silent. But you add your own words and would supplant the commentary of a priest and deride the Vicar of Christ. You, sir, are the wolf, but not a seriously dangerous one. You are a wolf, badly disguised, emaciated from spiritual hunger, and ravenous for sheep to devour. But you are one wolf that even the sheep could kick aside. I pray that you will come to your senses before it is too late. Are you just delusional? Are you deceived by demonic spiritual agencies?

    THE POPE NEEDS OUR PRAYERS BADLY AS HE DID A VAST WRONG AND ONLY JESUS CHRIST CAN SAVE HIM!

    FATHER JOE: You did a vast wrong and only Jesus can save you. The Pope will soon be declared a Saint, meaning that he is in heaven. He will pray for your miserable soul.

    I AM NO POPE AND I WOULD NOT HAVE KISSED THEIR EVIL BOOK!

    FATHER JOE: You might not have kissed their book but I suspect you would not have kissed them either. You would reproach them with insults. You are right about one thing— you are no Pope. However, you act as if you were.

    ONLY JESUS CHRIST BIBLE AND I WOULD LAY DOWN MY LIFE BY NOT CONDONING!

    FATHER JOE: The Pope was very knowledgeable of Scripture and preached upon God’s Word every day. You should know this. He never preached or taught from the Koran.

    AND THIS FATHER THAT’S CONDONING! NO WAY AROUND THIS FATHER; IT MAKES IT WORSE AND JESUS SAID “THE TRUTH WILL SET YE FREE! AN HE TOO KNEW HE DID WRONG AS HE WAS THE POPE! NO EXCUSE! AMEN AND AMEN!

    FATHER JOE: The Pope intended no religious relativism or false worship. About this you wrongly slur the Pope and will answer to God for your false witness. Your screaming on the internet is no real argument. You can question political diplomacy but not the Pope’s Christian faith.

    NOW I LEAVE THIS ALONE AND WITH THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST ON THIS AND ALL THAT READ THIS AS I BELIEVE EVEN THOUGH IN MY SIMPLE MISPELLED WORDS THAT ALM IGHTY GOD WANTED THIS TRUTH SAID AMEN AN AMEN!

    FATHER JOE: Almighty God would not want you to question the motives and faith of his Vicar on earth. Spelling is not the issue, bigotry and ignorance, is. Calumny against the Holy Father, not even giving him the benefit of a doubt is egregious.

    PRAYING DAILY GOT YE FATHER AN MO DISRESPECT TO ANYONE NOR YE FATHER BUT ALL MY RESPECT ON THE TRUTH WAS TO AN FOR ALMIGHTY GOD AN HE WAS THEE EXAMPLE THAT WE SHOULD NOT ALLOW SATON TO TEMPT US AWAY FROM WHAT ALMIGHTY GOD SAY AN WANTS :) OM NOT FLAWLESS BUT I KNOW WHEN IVE DONE WRONG AN I WOULD NOT SAY I DID A WRONG TO SHOW RESPECT TO A MUSLIM AN THERE EVIL BOOK AN THERE CULT :( ((

    FATHER JOE: I have given up trying to fix your grammar and spelling. You are so upset in what you see as a gesture of respect to a “thing” that you fail to appreciate the welcome that was extended to “persons.” Indeed, as in your attack against the Pope, you have no problem it seems with disrespect to persons. That in my estimation is evil.

    I LOVE ALM IGHTY GOD WAAAY TO MICH AN THERES ONLY ONE TRUE ALMIGHTY GOD THE FATHER SON AN HOLY SPIRIT AN MOTHER MARY AN THE HOLY BOOK FROM JESUS CHRIST TEACHINGS! WE WERE NEVER TO BE RESPECTERS OF A CULT THAT MURDERS THERE OWN WOMEN AN TEACHES THERE YOUNG TO EVEN HATE AN KILL CATHOLICS AN HATE OUR AMERICA FOR WHAT IT STOOD FOR!

    FATHER JOE: So how would you say we should treat Islamic peoples and nations? They are an intensely religious people. Attacks upon their faith are interpreted as personal attacks upon them. The Pope has stood up for human dignity and rights— challenging the Moslems, Communists, and the western Secular Humanists. I love my country but there are many things today in America that I do not love— 1.5 million abortions a year, homosexual marriage, a society saturated with pornography, etc. Most of my Moslem friends also lament these trends in American society. What about you? You worry about a quick gesture to a book and miss what really matters.

    :( IM NOT GONNA SAY SORRY GATHER AS I NOT SAID ONE SINGLE THING I WAS NOT INSPIRED TO SAT NY THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST AN ALMIGHTY GOD AMEN AN AMEN!

    FATHER JOE: You sir are not the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit. God is not speaking through you. I say without reservation that this gift you claim is false. If you receive any inner locutions they are not from God.

    NOW I LEAVE AN WILL NOT BE BACK AS IVE CARRIED OUT WHAT MY HEART FELT SPIRITUALLY IN DEFENDING THE TRUE CHURCH TRUE BIBLE TRUE JESUS CHRIST AN ALMIGHTY GOD AN MOTHER MARY AN THE HOLY SPIRIT THAT WILL JUDGE IN THEE END!

    FATHER JOE: in other words, this was just a spam attack. You did not come for dialogue or to reason, but to spread your venom in a rambling tirade against the chief shepherd of the Church. It would be enough to say that you thought the gesture of a kiss was a mistake and too easily misconstrued or used by the Church’s enemies. But no, you pressed on and made the incident more important than it actually was. You condemned the Pope as a great sinner even as he is on the verge of canonization. Do you even know what the Catholic Church is and what it teaches?

    EVEN POPE JOHN PAUL! ALMIGHTY GOD BLESS YE ALL AN I LOVE YE IN CHRIST JESUS AMEN AN AMEN!

    FATHER JOE: “Even” Pope John Paul? The reservation says a lot.

    ++++++ <3 ++++++ PS I ALSO HAVE ANOTHER HANDICAP I DONT READ WELL UNLESS ITS BIG LETTERS SO PLEASE FORGIVE ME ! IM NOT YELLING OK :) IN FACT IM VERY CALM AN AT PEACE IN JESUS CHRIST :) SO PLEASE READ THIS WITH A KNOWING IM SAYING THIS FEELING INSPIRED BY JESUS CHRIST !!! +++ AMEN AN AMEN +++

    FATHER JOE: You are not fooling anyone, you are YELLING! You could change the settings on your computer to view larger letters. No, you use capital letters because such expresses your self-righteous indignation and anger. Look at all the exclamation points!!! I will keep you in prayer, particularly that you will know healing and that if some dark spirit should oppress you, that it might be exorcised. Amen.

  9. Fr. Joe wrote elsewhere: “What would you have had the Pope do, throw the book back into the faces of his guests? Would you have preferred that he spat upon it? While it may not be our custom, gifts are traditionally kissed. Men even kiss men in parts of the Middle East and Orient. Place yourself for a moment into the cultural setting of the Islamic representatives. The Koran signified their greatest treasure. It stood for them and their identity as a people. The Pope’s gesture said to them, that despite our differences and difficult past history, we love you and want to live in peace with you.”

    No Father, no faithful objector would say that he should have spat upon it. He should have politely accepted it and kissed the giver of the gift, to show his love for him, not the Quran, which, let us be frank, is not merely a moderately misguided holy book with good intentions but several serious mistakes, it is a compelling, lust-mongering deformity of the Christian Gospel with over a billion adherents, that is, a gospel of the devil himself.

    FATHER JOE:

    I stand by my earlier words. Kissing the guests would not have shown the same general respect to an entire people and their culture. The Pope well understood, as Catholics should, the value of symbolic language. Christians, as well as Moslems, were members of the delegation that visited the Pope. If the Chaldean patriarch saw no problem then who are we to complain? The book, if it were indeed the Koran, was a gift that represented a nation and a culture. The Pope’s kiss was a welcoming expression of human respect and the desire for peace. Unfortunately, the Holy Father’s hopes for the new millennium had yet to materialize. Did the Pope regard the Koran as inspired? No, of course he did not. Did the Pope mean his kiss as an act of worship? No, he certainly did not. It is racist to judge the act simply by the terms of our own Western culture (which now attacks the Church). You spurn viewing the act as his guests would have interpreted it. The Koran is neither inspired nor utterly wicked. Attacking it as the “gospel of the devil” is to condemn Moslems as devil worshippers. Such is not the path to peace but toward crusade and holy war.

    While such matters are regarded as pragmatic and outside the direct protection that is given his teaching office; those who would make more of it are asserting that Pope John Paul II was guilty of religious indifferentism and false worship. I would not make that claim, if I were you, especially if I prize the state of my own immortal soul. Much of the Eastern world is Islamic and while we do not accept their faith we must show proper deference to these people. Knowing the negative animus maintained by anti-Catholic and traditionalist critics (interesting bedfellows) of the saintly Pope, had he kissed the visitors, we would now probably be arguing about homosexual gestures, kisses and the preference of the handshake.

  10. Thanks for the response, Father.

  11. This is an old thread – but allow me to express my opinion:

    This has caused scandal among non-Catholics who have thought about joining the Catholic Church. I am sure our Pope did not mean to cause scandal – but kissing the book was a mistake. I am having this exact discussion right now with three Baptists in RCIA who are expresing doubts about infallibility of the Pope because of this incident. To the potential converts, they see a Pope showing the same respect to the Koran as our priests show to the Gospels during Mass.

    And I must agree with them on that last point… kiss the Gospels – or kiss the Koran. You can’t kiss both. It was a mistake to do this in public as this picture is still being dragged out and turning many people off to Catholicism.

    FATHER JOE: Certainly the Koran kiss has given a great deal of fodder to those who condemn the Church and renounce the authority of recent popes. Of course, you and I both know that Pope John Paul II was no Moslem and did not actually confirm the book as inspired. He intended the act as an expression of hospitality and welcome. He was not recommending the contents of the book, but merely showing human respect to his visitors who identified themselves by the gift. They gave to him that which they most prized. Receiving it, he extended the sign of peace in a spirit or manner they would readily recognize. Had he known what trouble this would cause, you are right, he might have opted for something else… or at least to keep the cameras away.

  12. Hello Father Joe, first and foremost, thank you for your time in replying. You have gone in to things in far more more depth than I thought that you might. Thank you for that. By and large you and I agree. I have spent a fair few months posting with Muslims on the internet and I began to see myself going round in circles and never getting anywhere. I have found that the best answer I can give to any Muslim is that they pray to the God of Abraham for the truth.

    Jesus said that those who worship God must worship him in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24). I believe that those who desire the truth are drawn by the Holy Spirit to Salvation in Christ. So for the Muslim who gets to hear it means rejection of the Quran. Is Jesus even the beginning of worshipping God? The Way the Truth and the Life.

    FATHER JOE: Muslims view Jesus as a prophet but like Jews they do not believe he is the Messiah or God.

    When I consider the Sacred heart of Christ I see pure love. That is revealed in what he endured on the cross. God is love and those who know love know God. So it is love that draws a person to the truth. It is there on the cross that I discover the truth of the second person of the Holy Trinity. Jesus may be unique in that he and the Father share one and the same Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of pure love. I see the truth of the Holy Trinity.

    Muslims are told Jesus did not suffer but was defeated by the devil and had to be rescued by being taken to heaven, Muhammad presented himself as the Holy Spirit by claiming to be the comforter. In that way he claimed to be God. He has told Muslims his words are salvation and that the Salvation that come to us through the cross is a lie. Having that understanding given to them at birth, Muslims will not be so quick to give up on what they think is salvation to accept what they think is a lie. So they are trapped in chains to worship God as far as they know him.

    When Muslims say they beleve Jesus will return they don’t mean as the judge of mankind. They believe he will come to establish Islam and will both get married and will eventually die. So what they are expecting is an Antichrist.

    FATHER JOE: I do not think it serves any useful purpose to use negative apocalyptic language in their regard. All who sin are antichrists. I would not single him out in the religion of Islam. Further, this current argument is purely academic because such a view of Christ is false and shall never be realized.

    It isn’t wrong to have hope for peace and we as Christians should strive towards that but I see it as an unreastic hope in this life. That will be the case while the Bride of Christ continues to exist in a world that is a sea of sin. God bless you Father on this Easter Sunday.

    FATHER JOE: I do not foresee any utopian world at the hands of sinners. We await consummation in Christ.

  13. Hello Father Joe, I can appreciate at this time you haven’t had a chance to look at my other comment. I would however like to add to it regarding the Faith of Abraham. Ishmael became cut off. So that left him fatherless. We see that in Genesis 22:2. Isaac is recognised to be Abraham’s only son. I see parallels. Abraham became a figure for God. Isaac became a figure for Christ. Curiously, Islam claims to be of Abraham through Ishmael but fatherless because it claims God has no sons. Abraham’s faith regarding Ishmael was that he was fatherless. Islam confesses to be orphaned and does not recognise the Father.

    FATHER JOE: The Catholic faith makes no verdict on whether the blood of Abraham flows through the veins of Islamic adherents. We would also hesitate to judge Islam by the standards of the Jews. We simply acknowlege the Islamic claim that they see themselves as linked to the patriarch. They say that they believe in the one same God who revealed himself to Abraham. This makes them a monotheistic religion. This is still a far cry from the faith we know as Christians. However, it is the hope of the Church that we can all live together in peace.

  14. Hello father Joe, Islam claims to be of the faith of Abraham. That can’t be so. Islam claims to be of Ishmael who was both cut off and of whom no faith was required in God of Abraham. Abraham’s faith was in relation to Sarah being too old to conceive. He believed God and she conceived Isaac and it is through Isaac that the promise was given that Abraham would be the Father of those who believe. We have to recognise the truth that Ismael had nothing to do with the Faith of Abraham.
    Another thing is it doesn’t matter if Islam believes in one God. It is who they say God is. The truth is Jesus has made God properly known so that we can come to know God and worship him. The truth is Islam prevents Muslims from knowing God.

    FATHER JOE: Salvation is from the Jews. The Jewish Messiah would be the Christ and Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. Our Lord is the revelation of the Father. Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life. Islam emerges as an amalgamation of Judaism, corrupted elements of Christianity and the various local tribal religions. Christians regard themselves as spiritual children (in faith) to Abraham. It is in this light that we respect the Islamic view of themselves as children of Abraham who profess the one true God, regardless of defects in how they know him.

    It is possible to defend Islam too much.

    FATHER JOE: That is true. I would prefer to defend the dignity and rights of people. Such has been the posture of the popes.

    If Islam is fine in God’s sight then it would be fine for a person to leave Christianity and become a Muslim.

    FATHER JOE: Obviously, such is not fine. Indeed, while both Christianity and Judaism signify “true religion,” Islam does not fully pass the test. Jews and Christians historically share elements of salvation history. Muslims insert themselves into this story. Further, no matter whether a Christian reverted to Judaism or embraced Islam, the tragedy is that there would be a denial of Jesus Christ as the God-man and Savior. It is one thing for people in ignorance of the full truth to continue in the faith to which they were raised as children; it is entirely another for a true believer in Jesus to deny Christ. The more that one has been given, the more for which we shall be held accountable.

    God is not divided. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.

    FATHER JOE: I understand what you are trying to say. However, Jesus reveals in the baptismal formula that God is a Trinity: the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. God is three divine Persons in one divine Nature. God is one. Jews and Muslims also believe in this oneness, but they deny the Trinity and the unique value of Christ. Christianity is ultimately a religion based not in law or a promise, but in a promise fulfilled, the person and saving work of Jesus Christ.

    Islam declares the Son to be a thing most monstrous. That declaration in the Quran can only be held up when God is not known.

    FATHER JOE: It is possible for God to be known unclearly or in ways that mix truth with error.

    God can’t be worshiped if he isn’t known.

    FATHER JOE: Catholics believe that true worship is rendered in the Mass. All other forms of worship pale or come up short by comparison. We believe that Christ is the one High Priest whose sacrifice is acceptible to the Father, making atonement for sin. However, we would not deride as without any value the praise of God that is rendered in various ways by Protestants, Jews and yes, even by Muslims. God is not blind to love of him and our attempts at obedience. Truth and religion are not relative, but some do not have the full light of faith. We pray that all might be given this gift.

    As Christians, rather than seek to justify Islam we should be seen exposing it so that Muslims too can share in the promises of Christ.

    FATHER JOE: While we show human respect to persons, it is not for the Church to justify Islam. Our posture of faith lived in charity is a means to evangelize the nations. Unlike the Islamic militants, Christianity does not make converts by intimidation or with the sword. Rather, we do so with a dedication to the Gospel of Life and to a discipleship of obedience measured by the commandments of love.

  15. Three things come to my mind with the pope kissing the Quran. One is that Jesus said we should love our enemies and another being “Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” So while the Quran says God has no sons, the Pope proved that he has.

  16. One base point is enough, debates have got no ends …one thought: Muslims are not worshiping the GOD of Abraham. The God of Abraham is a trinity. So who do they worship other than JESUS?

    FATHER JOE: As Christians we appreciate the doctrine of the Trinity. But we share with both Moslems and Jews the belief in ONE God. By the way, the Jews do not believe in the Trinity, either. Would you deny that Abraham is their father in faith? Would you deny that the God of the Old Testament is the God who further reveals himself in the New Testament?

  17. Even if Pope John Paul II kissed and knelled to it a thousand times, it can’t harm his faith. The Muslims gave their Koran(the most important thing in their lives, their holy book, representing them.) to Pope John II as a gift to the leader of the Catholic Faith. As a sign of respect, Pope John Paul II knelled and kissed it, to show to the Muslim people, that Catholics are friends and we love and respect our Muslim brothers and sisters. We are all human beings and children of GOD. Everybody wants peace and love. Jesus Christ said, “Love your neighbors as you love yourselves.” HE didn’t said that “Love your Catholic and Christian neighbors and never those who are not, as you love yourselves.”. Jesus Christ also said, “Love your enemies and pray those who persecute you.” Muslims killed and persecute many Catholics Christians, as so Catholics Christians persecute and killed many Muslims. That clearly means that we Pray for them and we show them Love, for we to have peace in our hearts. Let’s open our hearts and minds, don’t put hatred in it just because of what they have done in the past, let us Love one another for GOD Loves everyone of us. We share GOD’s love to everyone in our lives; So, what if they are not Christians or Catholics? So, what if they are Muslims? Does it really matter? Does it makes sense if we hate them? Do we acquire happiness and love if we persecute them?There’s no-way it will be that way. Let’s just love each other. LOVE for humanity and Faith in GOD does matter.

    FATHER JOE: We are certainly trying to love our Islamic brothers and sisters, but today the violence is largely one-sided. Many in the Moslem world still espouse the notion of holy war as found in the Koran. When the Pope asked that they give up the idea of forced conversions, there were riots and protestors shouting, “Death to the Pope!” We certainly believe that Catholic Christianity is the true religion; but we would rather invite people through instructive dialogue and prayer. Of course, conversion to Christianity can also mean imprisonment or the death penalty in various societies operated according to Islamic law. We love them, yes, even as they martyr us.

  18. The fact that when Pope John Paul II kissed the Koran, it appeared to be an automatic response, makes me wonder if the response was programmed by someone who was aware that Pope John Paul II would be presented with the Koran. That being said, we worship The Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God Is Love. Love exists in relationship.

  19. We don’t know who will be shown the grace of God. In cor 2/18
    For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth. For all the gift givers knew, the pope had never read the Koran. Did they ask at the time? Did they discuss all the contents of the book? Likely, it was a gift to be used later. 1Peter4 says
    Use hospitality one to another without grudging.

  20. Notwithstanding the explanations made, it may be preferable if things like this stop and be not repeated.

    FATHER JOE: The Pope did nothing wrong. What would be wrong would be a return to derogatory rhetoric about Protestants and demeaning the Moslems as infidels. The Holy Father took the high ground, even if the other side never returns the favor. The gesture toward the Koran had everything to do with human respect and peace, and said nothing about religion. While there can be disagreement about such prudential decisions, as a head-of-state, it was his to make. The Holy Father prayed for peace when the world was rushing toward terrorism and war. The holier-than-thou attachment to this issue was just an excuse for schismatic traditionalists and anti-Catholic protestants to show their venom to the late Pope and to the post-Vatican II Catholicism. Today, they have turned their disrespect to Pope Benedict XVI. Enter a synagogue and the Pope is condemned. Greet Islamic emissaries and he is condemned. Those who hate more than they love will never approve.

  21. Dear Fr Joe,

    One of the posters here asked: “what would Jesus do?”

    Well I’ll tell you exactly what Jesus would do, and it would be the same that the Holy Father did, and I’ll tell you why I’m confident in that affirmation:

    Jesus allowed a prostitute to buy expensive perfume from money that she had made selling her body to the so called followers of the law, and pour all over and anoint His feet, and he was challenged by the very man who betrayed Him by a kiss………presumably Jesus returned that kiss of betrayal. And it could never be argued that He condoned the actions of either.

    And as you mentioned, Jesus really slated the judgements of these indignant hypocrites who accused Him of associating with ‘the unclean’, Tax collectors, prostitutes, men who didn’t wash their hands, who ‘worked’ on the Sabath, were all condemned just as some of us condemn Muslims; yet Jesus did not condemn the sinners but He did the self righteous bigots who judged HIM.

    So I can say with confidence that Jesus would have extended His hand of compassion and wisdom to any who genuinely welcomed Him. After all He accepted Gold, Frankincence and Myhrr from some pagan astrologers and we could never accuse Him of condoning those practices.

    Love Paul.

  22. Father Joe, if indeed that is your Real Name, You keep using the word “problematical” Is that even a real word? Isn’t a thing that is a problem simply ‘problematic?’ Saying problematical is like saying irregardless… Look it up.

    FATHER JOE: The FREE DICTIONARY defines “problematical” as thus…

    1. Posing a problem; difficult to solve: a repair that proved more problematic than first expected.

    2. Open to doubt; debatable: “if you ever get married, which seems to me extremely problematic” (Oscar Wilde).

    3. Not settled; unresolved or dubious: a problematic future.

    The dictionary also tells us that “problematical” and “problematic” mean essentially the same thing. Both spellings are correct.

  23. Father Joe: I respect you greatly, but your argument here seems “nutty”. Basically, your saying that in the interest of interfaith respect it’s ok to kiss a book that denies the divinity of Christ?? Somehow I think if I had done this and not the Pope, you’d demand I go to confession. The Pope actions say it’s ok to deny the divinity of Christ if you don’t want to offend your guests. And if a kiss it not assent than why do we kiss the pope’s ring? Do you think any of those Moslems would have kissed the pope’s ring as a sign of respect? What if the Pope asked his guests to kiss a large crucifix? It wouldn’t happen. not even out of respect.

    FATHER JOE: It might sound “nutty” but it is precisely the case. The Holy Father, who is also a head of state, received these Islamic representatives from Iraq. He displayed courtesy and diplomacy in their regard. Can you find any writing or teaching of the Pope that equates the Koran with the Bible? Does he ever deny the divinity of Christ? The book represented his guests and he honored them by receiving the gift according to their own custom. There was no false worship or anti-Catholic teaching moment. You are not a head of state so I doubt that there can be any comparison between you and the Pope. The Pope’s actions say nothing negative about the identity of Christ. Kissing the Pope’s ring is a sign of respect or acknowledgment of the Pope’s authority, temporal and/or spiritual. Even many non-Catholic leaders and others do so for the former but not the latter reason. Otherwise, they would convert and obey the Pope. Similarly, the Holy Father placed no great faith in the Koran but honored his guests and Iraq, a people who cannot be culturally disassociated from the book. What Moslems do or not do is beside the point. While practical matters can be debated, there was no higher significance in the Pope’s actions. Pope John Paul II always took the initiative and what he felt was the higher ground. Fundamentalist anti-Catholics would argue that kissing the Pope’s ring is worshipping him as a deity. You are making the same mistake about the book kissing business. There are many cultures where a gift is received with a kiss. Because such is not our practice might be why so many read too much into it. If you reject the authority of Pope John Paul II then you must also repudiate Pope Benedict XVI. Have you left the Catholic Church? You were a Catholic, am I right? All faithful Catholics would give the Pope the benefit of a doubt about such things instead of racing to rash conclusions, usually espoused by the Church’s enemies!

  24. dear father joe,
    the muslims believe that the bible and the torah are all revealed by god.muslims respect them and all the prophets.in the quran it is mentioned that there were 1lac 26 thousand messengers sent by god.

    FATHER JOE: As I have said before, the pope offered a sign of human respect, not worship. Such practical decisions are not infallible and might easily be misconstrued. This seems to be the case among certain traditionalists and among various fundamentist Protestants with an anti-Catholic bent. Islam believes that the Bible is a distortion of God’s truth although there is respect for certain elements we share. Catholics believe that the Bible is God’s Word. However, we give no faith assent to the Koran as anything but a book contrived by a man. It is not, in the Christian estimation, any kind of revelation from God. There is confusion about the Trinity and corruptions of basic Judeo-Christian beliefs and stories. Sorry, but while we love our Moslem brothers and sisters, we regard Islam as a false religion.

  25. Father Joe, you are wonderful. It is extremely helpful to read your replies to the Muslim who did not seem to engage with your actual arguments, but was intent upon pushing her beliefs into print. Shame there are so many Muslims. Will they all go to Hell, since they deny the Divinity of Our Lord and Saviour?

    FATHER JOE: The Holy Father (the Pope) has taught that the God of Islam is the same God of Judaism and Christianity. I would agree that there are many errors in the Moslem view of God and Christians certainly do not accept the Koran as inspired or as credible. While Pope Benedict XVI has stressed that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father, we do not presume in an absolute way the damnation of particular people. We preach the Gospel truth and leave judgment to God. There may be many so-called Christians who will fall short of eternal life because of their failure to love. We, as Christians, abide in the hope of our salvation but should avoid the sin of presumption.

  26. I wonder if the late Pope John Paul was aware that Muslims destroyed many churches throughout Saudia Arabia and all through out North Africa. Kissing the Quran just brought glee to the Muslims ! In Saudi Arabia, we Christains cannot build a church. Would an imam from any of the Muslim countries kiss the Holy Bible ? Of course not ! I am baffled why the Vatican goes into such a passive role when confronted by the non Christain religious leaders ! I have a number of Qurans, even CAIR sent me a huge Quran. I enjoy studying other religions. The Quran has some very wonderfull passages, don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate the positive aspects of their faith. They have not apologized for the murdering and pillaging of many Christains and destruction of churches. CAIR never requested me to kiss the Quran when it was given to me. Why the Pope did this is a mystery to me.

    FATHER JOE: The late Pope was very aware of both the history and the current state of Catholic-Muslim relations. That is precisely the reason for why he did what he did. As I said before, Christians must take the high ground in this. Further, you are not a head of state like the Pope. The Pope has not compromised the faith, he merely made an overture for peace. If such should bring some “glee” to Muslims, is this not better than brandishing the sword?

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